Why I Married My Best Friend on Facebook

By Lilly O’Donnell

My Facebook profile says I’m “Married to Haley Moss Dillon,” and has for the last four years. But it’s not exactly true.

First of all, Haley and I are both straight women. Second of all, we’ve claimed to be married since long before New York State legalized same-sex marriage. These Facebook “marriages” between best friends have become the digital iteration of friendship necklaces, two halves of a heart, bought at Claire’s and displayed as a proclamation. But they have practical applications beyond letting the world know that you love and are loved.

When I was nineteen I got engaged to the guy I’d been with for three years (he bought me a ring and everything: Art Deco white gold with a pearl and two little diamonds). We were even “Engaged” on Facebook, making it really official.

Eventually I realized I wasn’t ready to get married. I wanted my single years in a cramped studio apartment full of books; I wanted to try to make it as a writer, even if that meant poverty; I wanted the option to pick up and disappear in Europe for a few years. There was no way to reconcile that with my fiancé’s plan to raise three Russian-speaking children in Bensonhurst, ASAP.

So we broke up.

Illustration by Melissa Mendes

I told myself that ending it was the mature thing to do. I’d rather be single while I was young than end up a middle-aged divorcee, my figure destroyed by the three kids I didn’t even want.

I tried to get excited about flirting. I cut my hair flapper-short, dug out the red lipstick, and bought a new Victoria’s Secret push-up bra.

But, despite my best efforts, I was teenage-girl-heartbroken, crying into my down comforter at night–and in the middle of the day. As if my private misery wasn’t enough, I braced myself for the reactions on Facebook when I updated my relationship status. I dreaded from the pit of my ice-cream-and-booze-filled stomach the torrent of “OMG what happened?” and “:(“ from people I barely knew, and even worse, the congratulations from people who never liked my ex.

The simple solution: Change my status to “Married” to my best friend, Haley. It provided us both with an excuse to keep our romantic relationships off of Facebook and let me change my status without actually announcing the breakup.

Haley and I were pleased with ourselves for keeping our privacy while still being engaged Facebookers. Plus we really are life partners, so why not tell the world?

We’ve been talking about running away and getting married in Vermont since we were fifteen and sixteen and consider it a cosmic prank that we aren’t lesbians. Unfortunately, just like you can’t “pray away the gay,” you can’t pray for it, either.

We refer to each other as “my wife,” and my coworker was surprised, after we’d worked together for more than a year, that Haley and I are not actually a couple.

A way to avoid broadcasting a breakup to everyone I know had turned into a testament to our heterosexual life-mate status. But I was soon reminded of its original purpose.

The ex and I did a terrible job of breaking up. We kept meeting “to talk,” which turned into goodbye sex followed by attempts at reconciliation. We inevitably fought soon after, which led to makeup sex. After we made up we would try again. It was a vicious cycle of self-delusion.

One night after hours of conversation that dripped with naïve adolescent sap, we decided that love conquers all. Again. We were lying in bed when he leapt up and turned on my computer.

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked.

He had logged on to Facebook and was updating his relationship status.

I quickly explained my Facebook marriage with Haley, that she would get pissed if I changed my status, and that we had agreed to leave it that way.

As I said it I realized how relieved I was to have the perfect out. I wasn’t ready for an official Facebook announcement that we were trying again, for eager eyes to see our relationship fall apart, again.

When I realized that Haley is the only person I’m comfortable telling the world I’m in love with, I had to admit to myself that the Band-Aid the ex and I had put on our relationship wasn’t going to hold. There’s no Facebook option for “exes in denial.”

We broke up again that day. And only a few more times before it finally stuck.

The virtual marriage came in handy again a few years later when I found myself in another relationship. I was happy, but after the disaster of my previous rush to labels and rings, had no desire to use the “b” and “g” words. I didn’t even tell my IRL friends about the relationship for the first year or so, let alone have any desire to announce it on Facebook. And when it ended, never having really been labeled, I didn’t have to announce that, either.

The fishbowl experience of Facebook and other online profiles seems in contradiction to this generation’s reputation for being noncommittal–to career paths, to jobs, to relationships. We live our lives out online, on full display, but we also want the freedom to change our minds every few days, to have ambiguous relationships and embrace what’s been labeled “hook-up culture.”

The simple, seemingly cutesy and trendy move of “marrying” your best friend on Facebook is a way around that contradiction–maintaining privacy without the suspicious omissions of the information-less profile.

Read more tales from the New York City dating scene here.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Narratively’s story.